Links & Contents I Liked 58

Hello all,

A link list featuring interesting opposites: First, it seems that this week's links would turn into a 'Max Weber bureaucracy memorial list', but luckily, in the second half there are some great links that highlight the power of storytelling, innovative co-operations for learning, helping & healing,
development-related journalism from Colombia, admitting failure, thinking outside the box and getting advice from F. Scott Fitzgerald on writing as soldiering...

Enjoy!


New on aidnography
Simulating civil society participation, European Investment Bank edition

A picture says more than...Merry Christmas, Africa from the German ministry of development
These two short posts, on an invitation of the European Investment Bank to attend a civil society seminar including a discussion with board members where detailed questions have to be handed in beforehand and on a German newspaper ad signed by the minister for development cooperation that conveys some very old-school imagines of 'rural Africa' make light reading, but in some ways are also quite serious: They are bad examples of how large, powerful and well-funded organization that work 'in development' (still) communicate with their wider audiences and stakeholders. Innovation, openness, critical learning or learning from failure ('why stereotypes?' the official Twitter account of the ministry asked me in their initial reply) are still bypassing the offices of ministerial bureaucrats in Bonn, Germany or the banking offices in Luxembourg. Both organizations can (still) afford these attitudes, because they are (still) immune to the changes and challenges of 'development 2.0'. Which is an important reminder for 'us' that we should not focus on the hippest social enterprise, most reflective aid worker blog or most innovative community project alone. Large organizations need to be observed, commented on and questioned - especially around their daily and regular routines and rituals that often say more about internal discourses than any policy paper or high-level conference could.

Development
UK backed 'development' factory costs Mozambique millions in lost taxes

Other public bodies which have made money out of the smelter include the World Bank, European Investment Bank, and the governments of South Africa, Japan, France, Germany and Canada. In total the report estimates these public institutions have made over $120 million a year out of the smelter, eight times more than the $15 million a year received by the Mozambique government.
Just a coincidence, but maybe stories like this help to explain why institutions like the European Investments Bank want questions from civil society organizations filtered before they can reach a board member...

Making bureaucracies work

My hunch is that part of the problem here is that we too often misdiagnose what ails bureaucracies and therefore apply the wrong ‘treatments’. What follows is my take on a taxonomy on the potential causes of dysfunctional bureaucracies, offered as an attempt to improve the way that we think about aid and bureaucratic failure.
Terence Wood's post on rethinking some of the parameters of cooperation with developing countries' bureaucracies is also coincidental in its links to my introductory remarks: There is still a lot that can be done 'at home' before we advise other countries. governments and cultures on how to run their bureaucracies...

Mental Health Care Cambodia

“We know that mental health professionals are lacking in every part of the world, and Cambodia is one of the countries that is also lacking,” explains Sotheara Chhim, TPO’s executive director, at a project launch attended by many members from Cambodia’s psychological community.
“There is huge work that needs to be done,” he tells the audience. “So a small group of mental health professionals — I don’t think you are able to deal with all the work… you will be burnt out with all the problems.”
The post also mentions WhyDev.org's Peer Coaching initiative. Keeping those few who are able and willing to help healthy themselves is an important task and I like that the article makes that connection, valuing both those who open up to help and those who can provide it.

An Introduction to The SongStream Project

The SongStream Project started off with the simple idea of creating a mobile music therapy space in a vintage Airstream trailer. This, in turn, inspired the name SongStream and over the summer of 2012 evolved into a much broader concept about exploring the interwoven relationship between songs and stories, music and memory. As ideas, creative energy and imaginations blossomed, what unfolded was the possibility of creating podcasts, each with a particular theme that acted as a platform upon which stories and music could emerge.
(...)
The SongStream team is made up of Talia, Vanessa, Alex and Michael. All of us love to make music. Michael’s work has focused on peacebuilding and conflict transformation while Talia, Vanessa and Alex have a professional background that’s primarily in music. Alex is a musician and sound engineer. Talia and Vanessa have been music therapists for many years and have recently combined that with a focus on peacebuilding. It is these shared interests and values that are the rock on which The SongStream Project is being built.
Although this is not strictly speaking an 'international development' project (yet...it really has some great potential to be tested out outside the Bay Area in the U.S....), it is an excellent example of how development, peacebuilding, therapy and music can come together and create something wonderful. The team has started to work with autistic children and their families and it really looks like the start of a fascinating project!

Making a Life, but Not a Living in the Fields: Lucrecia Camacho's Story

When I came here I didn't expect a better life. I knew I would have to earn my living with physical labor. I was happy living in Mexico, but I didn't have money even to clothe my children. Here I live better. I have the basics and I thank this country for giving me that. I hope to retire soon and go back to Mexico. I don't plan on staying here. I'll leave neither rich nor poor. The only thing I'll take with me is aches and pains, because it' s not like I have any money to take with me.
Again, not an international development link per se, but a well-documented life story of a Mexican farm worker in the U.S. and the hardships that came with it. The power of listening...

Chiquita Republic

Behind the beheaders came the agribusinesses, which converted the territory into African palm plantations and cattle ranches under paramilitary protection. The cozy relationship between the corporations and paramilitaries became known as the para-economy.
Fifteen years later, the displaced people who have returned to Curvaradó say they are again engaged in a land struggle with a para-economy. But the businesses encroaching on their land are no longer palm and cattle ranchers, but rather plaintain farms run through proxy growers, mostly at the direction of a Colombia-based, multi-national banana company called Banacol. However, the returnees refer to the company by a more familiar name: “We call it Chiquita Brands,” says Germán, a leader of the restitution fight.
Corporate power, paramilitaries and bananas-a very interesting piece from Colombia.

Bill Ryerson: The Challenges Presented by Global Population Growth

One of the things that we do – and that is the primary thing we do – is to use a strategy of communications that has turned out, from everything we have been able to measure, to be the most cost-effective strategy for changing behavior with regard to family size and contraceptive use on a per-behavior change basis of any strategy we have found on the planet. And this is the use of long-running serialized dramas, melodramas like soap operas, in which characters gradually evolve from the middle of the road in that society into positive role models for daughter education, delaying marriage and childbearing until adulthood, spacing of children, limiting of family size, and various other health and social goals of each country. And we have now done such programs in forty-five countries. And I can give you a couple of statistics.
For example, in northern Nigeria, a program we ran from 2007 to 2009 was listened to by 70% of the population at least weekly. It was a twice a week program. It was clearly a smash hit. And it was a smash hit because it was highly suspenseful and highly entertaining. But it had a storyline dealing with a couple deciding to use family planning, which is almost taboo in northern Nigeria because less than 10% of the people in that region use any modern method of contraception. We had eleven clinics have healthcare workers ask clients what had motivated them to come in for family planning, and 67% percent of them named the program as the motivation.
The power of storytelling and telling a story in an accessible style, one soap opera at the time...

Scholarship Program Gone Terribly Wrong

For a time, the program worked well, and we were able to fund scholarships for hundreds of students who otherwise would not have been able to attend university. Unfortunately, the donor never agreed to sign commitment letters or any other documentation, and funding began to stop as the donor increased reporting expectations, now requiring students to pose for pictures with copies of his memoir, and interrupting funding when reports came in late.
Finally, we were not able to meet these new expectations for a variety of logistical and sometimes cultural and security reasons, and the donor broke off relations with GlobalGiving. An elderly man, the donor then passed away, and the program is now defunct, leaving hundreds of students who had begun studies with the promise of a scholarship without the money needed to continue. Local partners that had made commitments to students were left in various levels of difficulty that we have only recently been able to sort out.
It is brave to speak out about a failed initiative, but there are so many important lessons to be learned from this short example that I am glad John Hecklinger submitted it to Admitting Failure...

13 thoughts for aid in 2013

Aid organizations that are external-facing, employing attentiveness to “taking the pulse” of the customers and partners they serve and the world around them. No more head-down, power-through focus on “our programs”. Time to look up and outside of our own systems, requirements, and politics.
13 great thoughts from Jennifer Lentfer for a new year in development...dare I say that I wish even 1 or 2 could become reality...

Anthropology
Living Anthropologically on 2012 Anthropology – 2013 Themes

Here are the one dozen most viewed pages and posts from 2012, with notes on how these themes might develop for 2013. I’ve included the top dozen because the final two were in memoriam posts to two wonderful anthropologists and mentors we lost this year: Elizabeth Brumfiel and Michel-Rolph Trouillot.
A great list of interesting posts, book recommendation and everything else the anthropological heart and mind desires :)!

Academia
Most-read academic inspiration essays: the books that inspired…

Since launching in April 2012 we’ve published over 30 short essays from academics on the books that have inspired them from their student days right through to teaching and writing today. Here are the top three most-read essays.
F. Scott Fitzgerald on the Secret of Great Writing
That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.
(...)
P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent — which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.
Some final great words of wisdom for those who have to and want to write...

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